Is Your Career Rootbound?

Yeh Blog, career services


I’m no green thumb but, for a while, I was pretty obsessed about gardening. The thing is I didn’t have a garden. I lived in NYC in an apartment that did not give me a lot of opportunity to grow plants. And yet, I would obsess over my subscription to Garden Design Magazine. So, I did what many in my situation would do… I became a houseplant gardener.

That’s when I found out about being rootbound.

I had a potted plant and wanted it to grow bigger, so, naturally, I replanted it into a new, bigger, beautiful planter pot. Initially the plant grew beautifully, flowering and expanding. However, after several months, it suddenly stopped growing. In fact, it started to look sick.

When I pulled my plant out of the pot, I found that its roots were rootbound and had rootballed - the roots had tangled around the outer perimeter of the previous smaller pot and were growing into tight knots instead of growing down and outward as healthy roots should. There was new soil for the roots to grow into, yet the roots had already been trained to stay in the previously confined area and they could only grow into its previously trained growth pattern.

This “trained limited growth pattern” is ingrained in the plant's root system. If nothing is done to correct the situation, even if you replant it into a bigger pot with more space, it won’t grow correctly -  you will be stunting the growth or sealing in an early death.

What I needed to do now was ensure the best future for the plant. I had to expose the roots and examine the harmful root pattern. Slowly and carefully, I began to cut away and remove the growth that was in the wrong direction. To any plant lover, this looked like a massacre, but the roots needed a fresh start to retrain their growth pattern to grow outward.


I was going through this process with my plants and began to think about our career coaching work with executive level design professionals... when it dawned on me: many of these design professionals who are 10, 20 and 30 years out in their careers, are dangerously rootbound.

Most of them are so passionate about their work that they never lift their heads from the grindstone to get to the “root” of the problem. And that is the worst thing you can do.

No matter the industry, talent comes to us when they need to be repositioned into a new career. Sometimes it’s just “a larger pot”, sometimes it’s moving them to a completely new environment. Regardless of the range of change, it’s change nonetheless. When we work with talent we always find some form of rootballing - seasoned professionals circling in on themselves even if we place them in the new environment.

The dangerous thing we find here is most people don’t take the time to reevaluate and adjust themselves to allow for true growth in a new environment. I completely get it. This is a highly disruptive, and at times, painfully awkward experience and process. Who wants to go through that? And even if you want to, can you really get yourself to?

If you don’t take the arduous task of reevaluating yourself, disrupting your own pattern to allow for new growth, you could very well find yourself stagnating in the new place - not thriving and frantically trying to understand why. You won’t notice the damage right away and there’s no telling when it will surface. Just as roots are hidden, there’s no telling when a limiting pattern starts to emerge. On the surface you won’t know what it is that’s causing your issues, until it’s too late.

If you take the time to catch this now, then you’re taking preventative measures. However, if you’re seeing signs that you are somehow being contained and something is holding you back, do something about it. Don’t wait too long.

You can make a choice, to stop keeping your nose to the grindstone, to step back and assess your situation and see what you need to do to cut yourself free. It’s not an easy process, but it IS possible.

First, you need to acknowledge that you’re stuck. Only then can you prune and clear away the muck that’s holding you back. If you don’t, you could very likely lose time, your creativity, the passion to be creative and not be able to gain the new skills you need to get your career on track.

Whatever you do, don’t try this by yourself - your roots need a fresh start to retrain their growth pattern. But, first, someone needs to help pull you out of the pot. Your best bet is to find someone you trust who will understand how to read you, your gifts, where you’re stuck and your potential. Someone that will understand every single aspect of your situation and, most of all, someone that will know how to stop you from circling in on yourself, to guide you to set new patterns of growth and potential.

There’s nothing as all-consuming as your career. Your career determines how you live and where you live. It affects your life and your well being. You define yourself by your career, and others define you by that as well. Are you willing to leave that up to chance?

Let’s get those roots untangled, let's get you unstuck - Schedule a Strategy Call with me.

Committed to your success, 


Tagged: Yeh Blog, career services

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